Thoughts Feb. 2023

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Judaism is Perfect

In the beginning of Mishpatim, Rashi says that going to the others nations’ courts—even in a matter that they rule exactly like the Jews—is still a profanation of God and supports their idolatry. The verse used in support is, “For not like our God are their gods, and their judges are our enemies” (Deut. 32:31). Attending other courts suggests that Judaism is insufficient to cover some matter, a profanation of God and His Torah, as if God could not address all human affairs. This also elevates alien religions. But our God did not miss anything; His Torah addresses all matters: “Our God is not like theirs.” And by attending their courts, “their judges are our enemies” as such attendance discredits Torah.

Altar and Peace

Sifsei Chachomim elaborates on Rashi who says that civil matters (laws of slaves) rightly follows the previous Torah section which addressed the altar, as both matters are “completely equal” regarding securing peace. The altar secures peace between God and man and civil laws secure peace between man and man. What is intriguing is that Sifsei Chachomim makes clear that it is not the sacrifice, but it is the altar that secures peace. But an altar is not an action, it is simply an object. How does it secure peace? One would think an action is required to secure peace.

Sacrifice is a discrete, short-lived phenomenon. Of far greater value is an idea which governs one’s entire life. Maimonides teaches that Adam the First brought a sacrifice immediately upon his creation. He expressed his realization that his existence is unnecessary…he should be like the dead animal he just sacrificed. Thereby, the altar upon which he sacrificed embodies man’s relationship to God: that of a subordinate. Altar thereby creates “peace” between God and man, as we define this peace as God's approval of man's state. When man accepts his subordinate status and God's authority, we refer to this perfected human state as “peace between God and man.”